Posts from April 2002

Apr 02

On sampling and post-modernism

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Here’s Gavin Mueller writing in the OHJ Blog (get your permalinks fixed!) “I think sampling is one of the most potent forms of artistic expression, especially in our post-modern world.”. You just know he’s going to mention DJ Shadow and lo-and-behold he does. And here’s The Dr. from Boom Selection – “many buyers of ‘freak like me’ treat it as an original work, unaware of the component parts.”.

So where’s ‘post-modernism’ (whatever that is) there? (It is just about possible to imagine a buyer of DJ Shadow, or the Avalanches, coming to their records unaware that these are patchworks of samples, but it’s rather difficult). Treating sampling – in the broadest sense – as unoriginal misses the point, but so does fencing it off and calling it art.

DJ Shadow isn’t really trying to get you to reconsider the sound sources by “putting them into a new context” – if recontextualisation were his thing he wouldn’t be using all those private-press ice-lolly jingles, where nobody knows or cares about the original context. But songs with super-recognisable samples – like bootlegs, like Puff Daddy for that matter – aren’t doing that either. They’re daring you, who does know what’s up, to hear the song as if you dont. To hear it like the Sugababes buyers hear ‘Freak Like Me’ – out of any context, new and fresh. The secret of a sample in pop is that you forget it’s a sample – the better-known the sample, the higher the stakes are; that’s all.

The Pixies

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The Pixies were officially enshrined as the “most important rock band of the 80s” when Kurt Cobain let slip their influence on Nirvana. (Of course, he also trumpeted the Melvins, so what did he know?) But I don’t think anyone realized just how “important” they were until this wave of nu-emo, probably starting with Weezer (who featured on the dreaded tribute if I remember.) It’s an odd situation: none of these bands particularly sound like the Pixies, yet the influence is undeniable. (And – like Pete sez below re. NWA and The Beatles – the influence has all been lousy. Black Francis was a big fat thing who sang about sex and aliens and who, even in his odd sexual-asexuality, was worlds away from mewling fops of the likes of Dashboard Confessional.)

It stands to reason then that four studio albums and an EP (a combined total of $55.85 American, before taxes) is hardly the sort of catalog such an influential band warrants, especially in the eyes of its caretakers 4AD (and now apparently SpinArt). I don’t know if I’d call this greed, exactly. I’ve certainly bought al the superfluous Pixies-product which has come out in the past few years: thr B-Sides and the BBC Sessions and even the Besf Of. But the intentions at work seem…less than honorable for sure. Why now? Why not when they broke up almost 10 years ago? Solo projects not going too well? 4AD blown too much money on mimsy shoegaze in the last decade?

There’s nothing on these records – bar the B-Sides maybe – which is of any real value to those other than completists. Yet indie kids (and The Pixies are nothing if not the Biggest Indie Band Ever) are nothing but completists, a ready made audience of music obsessives who will lap up any scrap you toss them from their favoritist band. It’s playing not only on the fans who’ve had those five records since 1992 but the kids who were fingerpainting or potty training when the Doolittle sessions were being recorded. Sadly, I’ll probably buy this too. But I’m stopping when the Dick’s Picks-style live double discs start appearing. And I mean it this time. For real.


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Readers solve my pop riddle and name the star!

This man, sinfully ugly though possessed (his friends later said) of a strange charm, rose to prominence in the 1960s with a succession of novelty hits, and quickly established himself as a fixture on the pop scene. During the 1970s and 1980s the hits kept coming though less frequently and he tried his hand at songwriting in almost every genre, the results usually shot through with his distinctive brand of smutty humour. Towards the end of his career, though, he was embroiled in an underage sex scandal.

Maybe youre thinking of self-made martyr and laughable pop perv Jonathan King? If so, youre wrong Im talking of course about Serge Gainsbourg, toad-faced Godfather of Gallic pop. I occasionally think of moving to France: the music is just as bad but the booze is cheaper and at least I wouldnt be able to understand the lyrics. But then I think of Serge, and shudder at the knowledge that where Britain hounds and imprisons its novelty pop stars, France turns them into national icons.

Gainsbourgs reputation as a genius rests on an endless succession of naughty pranks getting some Eurovision poppet to sing a song about blowjobs; getting Brigitte Bardot to sing a song about shagging; getting Jane Birkin to sing a song about bum sex; getting a bunch of lounge-jazz musos to play songs about fucking a 15-year old; getting Sly and Robbie to do the national anthem in comedy dirty reggae style; getting his daughter to sing a song about incest.oh, and writing a book about farting, and sexually harassing Whitney Houston. Rabelaisian? Hardly. Gainsbourg is the Benny Hill of pop.

Like Jonathan King and Weird Al Yankovic, Gainsbourg could turn his hand to any kind of music, just as long as you didnt ask him to do it well. The clattery, clumsy rhythms of his sixties rock and roll efforts were a pathetic, Pat Boone take on the music. Je TAime has the dishonour of sounding like twenty years of lame porno soundtracks except, astonishingly, even less funky. The stinkiest hippie on the lowliest commune could have beaten Serges 70s acoustic numbers into the ground. Your phone is a better synthesizer than the ones on his 80s records.

And then he died. His influence is with us today, of course France still turns up the odd snippet of paedo-pop in honour of the old bore (Latest example: Moi.Lolita) though its worth remarking that the only French music to have become remotely fashionable since Serge turned his toes up is house, the only kind of music he didnt get a chance to ruin. And Serge looms large in the memory of assorted neurotics desperate to convince themselves theyre having filthier sex than the general public. That public ignores such people and gets on with shagging like rabbits and whatever soundtrack they choose, you can bet your life its not Serge Gainsbourg.

On N.W.A. and dangerous music

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Over on Pop Matters, a well written and argued piece on why NWA are the second most influential band in history. The whole piece is perhaps too overblown as if Shan Fowler really does not think anyone is going to agree with him. I was halfway there when I saw the idea of the project. What would otherwise be quite a dry, historical piece is enlivened no end by the personal reminiscences. The paragraph on “extreme bowling” is hilarious, but I particularly like his definition of dangerous music. A piece of dangerous muisc is one that he would get into trouble with his parents for listening to when he was fourteen. That is a definition which makes perfect sense.

Thinking about influence I could only dredge up a few bands who could really be called influential at all. And as with NWA, and The Beatles – most of these influential bands have been a lousy influence on others.

(I’ve not been over to Pop Matters before and while a lot of it seems review-centric I learnt at least one other great fact this afternoon.That after Bob Mould gave up “white-boy rock music” he spent seven months as a fight and story producer in pro-wrestling – deciding who would win and lose. Though Moulds whiny attitude even makes this sound like no fun.)

DUEL! 2002 — Round 2 Match 4

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DUEL! 2002 — Round 2 Match 4

Duel! 2002 – Round 2 Match 4

Which of these artists is worse?
Limp Bizkit
David Gray

View current results
View message board

Over once again to Mr Pete Baran to set the scene for today’s Duel!:

‘This second-round clash is a classic in the Noel Gallagher vs Liam Gallagher sense. Do we go for the band for whom stupidity is their raison d’etre – or the sensitive, songwritery, supposedly intelligent Irishman who released the worst cover version in history?

On the side of the stupid we have Limp Bizkit. Now plenty of bands have spelt their names wrong for comic effect in the past, but at least a Lead Zeppelin or a Death Leopard were effective names in their own right. A limp biscuit is pretty much a Rich Tea after it’s been dunked in your tea. Not in any way an appealing option – and nor oddly are Fred Durst’s band of “Not good enough to be rappers, not good enough to be metallers”.

At least they are unassumingly daft though. David Gray wears his heart on his sleeve – which should make it easier to grab it and stop it from beating. Though it would be a very slow, boring beat like all his very slow boring songs. To turn “Say Hello Wave Goodbye” into a twelve minute trudge through misunderstanding he surely deserves the next round.’

LAST MATCH — Travis vs Badly Drawn Boy

TRAVIS — 80 votes

‘a truly difficult decision. travis can be considered “adult contemporary”, but then mr gough wrote the soundtrack for the last n. hornby movie. how P!O!P! is that? Travis wins, but only because they’ve already made THREE albums full of sh*t, one more than mr gough.’ (+1)

‘Travis is so much worse. Badly Drawn Boy wears a bobble hat ha ha! It looks like a tea cosy! And he’s got a filthy beard – he looks like a TRAMP! HA ha.’ (+1 for Travis I suppose)

‘sing sing sing sing sing sing sing you gotta sing sing sing sing….
go for that ivor novello award fran, you fukkin deserve it mate!’ (+1)

‘How could you LIKE Travis? It would be like getting excited about DIY or getting enthusing about a new brand of kitchen towel. On the other hand, how could you be arsed to actively hate them. They’re just *there* aren’t they, like nitrogen in the air. An insubstantial, colourless, jock-lite NOTHING.

I can understand hating BDB, as he’s a stinky tramp, old before his time and arrogant too. Thing is, that’s better than being NOTHING.’ (+1)

‘Travis Aka Trav-arse – are another band I hate – unfortunately my local alt radio station Xfm – plays every single they release – everytime their music comes on – it bores me immensely – sing was a horrid repeative inane simpleton dire crap – but that new track with bumbling guitar banjo and inspid dull vocals is ghastly – Oh my flowers in the rain – Travis could not be more boring if they tried – Fran Healey what a total plank, but why do their albums sell over a Million – thats a Million Brits suffering from Brain-Rot.

Anyone owning a Travis CD should be laughed at. Boring music for dullards.

[The other twats in this round Badly Drawn Boy are crap too, that new single – oh ah oh ah – what a loud of absolute bollox. I would expect there is a high correlation between Travis and Badly Drawn Bore fans – music for Q readers with Car Stereo tuned into Virgin.]’ (+1 — can you guess whose comment this is readers)

‘Popularity stokes hatred. In the States, both artists were likeable enough when still under the radar of MTV and mainstream press.

Travis though, with their less pretty, more crappy follow up to The Man Who, grabbed a bit of MTV airtime with the video for “Sing Sing, Sing.” The song and video fit perfectly together. Both were boring and insipid and made me want to shoot people.’ (+1)

‘Both are good, in my opinion, but Damon Gough scores extra good points for his exquisite About A Boy album. Sorry, Travis.’ (+0!!)

‘Oh Christ, they’re both boring and smell of wee – of course BDB even looks like a piss stained tramp. But then, oh my goodness, that Travis drummer. Oh dear.’ (Not sure who gets the points here)

‘Why Me Drift Me Rain Flowers Wood Writing Wood Rain Wood Writing Wood Flowers Why Me Wood Rain Sing Rain Side Reach Side Flowers Window Turn Writing Always Side Writing Flowers Me You Rain Writing Rain Rain Reach Turn Window Wood Drift Flowers Reach Drift Side Always Turn Turd Turd Turd Turd TURD.’ (+1)

‘I own the first two Travis albums. I was not actually ashamed of this until I heard “Sing”, the worst song ever _not_ performed by Ja Rule, Starsailor or Gorillaz. Now, I’m reduced to posting anonymously that I own Travis albums because I can’t bear the stigma.’ (+1)

‘All the stupid bits in Bewilderbeast make the good stuff stand out more, and there is some good stuff mixed in there, really there is. Travis are too tame to even have any stupid bits. Boring boring boring. No contest.’ (+1)

BADLY DRAWN BOY — 25 votes

‘Problem is I actually like songs from both of the contestants. sorry. Shit, I forgot about sing sing sing. Well BDB gets it for me purely on hype value and failure to follow through. Though perhaps he has followed through in good ol’ fashioned tramp stylee.’ (+1)

‘I have absolutely nothing against Travis…they are so ineffectual…voting for them would be like voting for park ducks because they were floating on a pond. Pointless. Badly Drawn Boy = from the bed sit to the Notting Hill penthouse, his tracksuits and silly hats = he is J Kay. His songs suck. (I voted for BDB)’ (+1)

‘A Brittney Cover!!!!
If I have to see another bearded indiekid I may scream, strangle them, scream, run into a music store screaming, break every banjo in sight and grab all the BDB cds, scream, while on the way out grab Nikelbacks cds and burn them all while laughing manicaly.
Travis is winning SHOCKAH! sniffle.’ (+1)

FINAL RESULT: Travis — 88 (76%) — BDB 28 (24%)

Whot a GRATE festival lineup

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Whot a GRATE festival lineup!!! Guns’n’Roses, THE STREETS (be still my beating heart swoon I wonder whot his star sign is), Andrew W(ic)K(ed), and ‘Rival Schools’ on the New Bands Stage! Could it be the Tompauling fest of Glasters?? The smashing new promised lineup for Reading and Leeds?? No!!! It’s in sockfarming JAPAN. Well thanks UK bookers. But at least we get the Dandy Warhols!! (Oh scrolling down I see the Streets (be still my beating heart, when will he be MINE), Andrew WK and G’n’R are playing there as well. Oh well. Ok then well… gah!!! Carling?!?! Be-ARDing, more like. (Must read articles before I get worked about them some day).

An unexpected discussion

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An unexpected discussion of Sue Wilkinson’s “You’ve Got To Be A Hustler If You Want To Get On”, of all things. Black Box Recorder nicked all their ideas from this song.

Boom Selection

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Boom Selection covers the Sugababes’ hit single from the bootleg perspective – excellently put together, intelligent, and it’s got mp3s of every relevant track – FT’s piece is put entirely to shame. Go, read, and download now.

Apr 02

Pop-Eye Special

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Pop-Eye Special: so huge was this week’s Pop-Eye (a paean to the Sugababes’ awesome “Freak Like Me” single) that it turned into an article in its own right, and joins Sterling’s excellent Tweet review in a new site update.

(NB: the “creating a new audience” bits in the Sugababes piece are vaguely inspired, I’ve just realised, by reading Frank Kogan’s Why Music Sucks zine, a couple of copies of which he very kindly sent me and which have been much thumbed. The phrase stuck in my head, though I’m not using it to describe the activation of completely new audiences, but to discuss a more modest achievement for a pop act – making connections over genre boundaries at a time of relative flux in the pop process. Thanks Frank anyway.)

The Acceptable Face of Rockism

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The Acceptable Face of Rockism: if you spend the odd bored hour at work scanning the Top 5 lists at, you might recognise the name Nate Patrin and his unusually literate contributions. Anyway this is his weblog.